St. Louis Business Journal hosts Ferguson Impact - 1 Year Later on July 28 at the Botanical Garden
by Chuck Ramsay
The St. Louis Business Journal sponsored a seminar panel discussion on July 28, 2015 at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Their Shoenberg Auditorium was full of community organizers, activists, non-profit executives, politicians and many impacted by the events in Ferguson last year. Ellen Sherberg, publisher of the St. Louis Business Journal, was the moderator and asked approximately five questions to the panel over the course of the one-hour presentation. Panelists stayed afterwards to answer questions. One of the notable guests was Missouri Senator Jamilah Nasheed, co-author of the Senate Bill 5 discussed as part of the discussion. Here, then, is what was discussed after the first of those questions posed to the panel:
Ellen Sherberg, St. Louis Business Journal Publisher: What is an important change you’ve seen take place during the last year?
Kathy Osborn, Executive Director, Regional Business Council
“One is, they say, you don’t need a crisis for change; you’re really wasting it. And I think what I’ve seen is a crop for commitment by many different sectors on many different issues. What happened there was a shooting between a young man and a police officer, but what it really showed was a complex set of issues that were going on that we now have to deal with. I will tell you, the passage of Senate Bill 5, in my mind, which really sets a new standard for police departments and for what people can do to fine people…the shock, I went to UMSL, so I know you get tickets when you drive around UMSL. What I didn’t think of in my little world, even as a student when it was hard to pay it, is what it would like to be poor and get those tickets time and time again. So we turned poor people into criminals in many cases. And that’s really really sad.”
Scott Negwer, President of Negwer Materials, Inc.; Negwer Door Systems and member of the Ferguson Commission
“I would agree with Kathy that one of the things that has happened in the past year is the realization that change needs to occur. But it is so complex of an issue that it is not going to happen overnight. This isn’t an issue that legislation can change; we have to change as individuals. We have to get a hold of what the problem is – education, transportation, job opportunities; all these contributed to what happened in Ferguson. So this is not just a legislative issue. It us. It’s me and you that have to solve these problems.
Dan Isom, Retired Chief of Police and member of the Ferguson Commission
I think one of the most important things that happened is that it has opened up the dialog about race in St. Louis. It’s been something that for many years we’ve been uncomfortable talking about in the presence of others, but now we’re having daily, weekly conversations about how your race affects your opportunities in St. Louis, how race affects your dealings with the criminal justice system, and how complex that is. People, in general terms, seem to feel that your circumstances are basically your own; you can make your way out of a bad situation. I think many people have come to realize it’s not that easy. And, so, hopefully as Scott has said, this will be conversation that goes on, but it will turn into some real actions that make a difference.
Amelia Bond, President and CEO, Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation
And, in terms of philanthropy, we do have a race issue. And we won’t solve those social issues until we deal with the inequities. The investment of philanthropic dollars will only have greater lift if we start dealing with the underlying issues. And so I think that in the past year we do have limited capacity in terms of the philanthropic dollars available to us. We have to put those to the highest and best use and I think that one of the changes we’ve seen is an interest level and a focus level. Donors of the Community Foundation and throughout the region, all the number of funders and charities have really focused on what are the needs and have really trying to aggregate them into more impactful projects.
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